BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) -- Pratt & Whitney executive said in federal court Tuesday that despite investments in an engine repair unit in 2008, the downturn in the aerospace industry forced the jet engine maker to propose shutting the facility.
Tom Hutton, the top executive responsible for the East Hartford facility, said he tried to improve it in 2008 by streamlining the workload, reorganizing the machinery and purchasing new equipment.
Hutton, a one-time foreman who advanced into the executive ranks and worked at the engine repair plant, known as the Connecticut Airfoil Repair Operation, or CARO, said his objective was to fix the plant's problems.
But the recession left the unit with no work for 25 union workers last year, leading him to believe it should be closed, he said.
"We had enough work to justify three shops, yet we had four," Hutton said.
Pratt kept the 25 extra employees although it cut 18 salaried positions in the unit from 2007 through mid-2009. Union employment fell from 206 to 159 through attrition, buyouts and transfers.
The Machinists union is suing the East Hartford subsidiary of United Technologies Corp. in U.S. District Court in Bridgeport in an effort to halt plans to move 1,000 jobs from Connecticut to Georgia, Japan and Singapore.
The union, which represents about 3,700 workers, says the company has failed to make every reasonable effort to preserve the jobs, as required by a contract between the two parties.
Pratt & Whitney says it made every effort to identify alternatives that would make the businesses competitive and preserve the work in Connecticut. It also has proposed shutting an engine repair plant in Cheshire.
Testimony in the hearing, which began in December, is scheduled to end Wednesday. Judge Janet C. Hall is expected to make a decision later this month.